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COLIN CAMPBELL: Miss Scotland shows why beauty contests are centre stage again

By Colin Campbell

Miss Scotland Chelsie Allison. Picture: Callum Mackay..
Miss Scotland Chelsie Allison. Picture: Callum Mackay..

Chelsie Allison is the new Miss Scotland, and is justifiably proud of bringing that title to Inverness.

The Inverness Courier interviewed her for an online video and she spoke with charm and sincerity.

Much of her emphasis was on the charity work she’s been doing for the Highland Hospice over the past five years. She will now use her fame and her presence to bring in more money for the hospice. I’ve no doubt they are as delighted to have her in that capacity as she is to represent them, including at the Christmas lights switch-on this weekend.

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Beauty contests on TV in the 1970s used to bring the nation to a standstill. Many people tuned in to the Miss United Kingdom show. Everyone stopped what they were doing to watch Miss World. It was a major national event, like the Eurovision Song Contest – an unmissable showpiece in the annual calendar.

We don’t have days like that anymore, days which brought everyone together at a certain time around virtually every TV set in the land. More’s the pity, because they were special.

Eurovision is still popular, but nowhere near as engrossing as it was back in the days of Mary Hopkin, Sandie Shaw, Dana, Lulu and Cliff.

The Miss World contest did not fare so well back then. The spectacle of scores of beautiful women from countries across the world parading on stage in swimsuits was of compelling interest in the 1970s but as each year passed the murmurs of disquiet grew louder.

Initially, the gaggle of female placard waving protesters with their “cattle market” slogans were dismissed in the media as humourless cranks. They seemed to attract little public sympathy or support. But times they were-a-changing and that changed with it.

A flour bomb deluge of the Miss World stage by protesters stunned TV viewers and although many condemned it, it was a turning point. It opened up a national debate and the tide gradually but irresistibly began to turn against the “pretty girls in swimsuits” spectacle.

Eric Morley, celebrated for years as the organisational mastermind who brought Miss World together, began to sink in public esteem. He protested to the last – and many still agreed with him – that the event was glorious and innocent fun. But the once fabulous spectacle of the Miss World contest withered away under a huge weight of criticism and opprobrium, and by the time it disappeared from TV screens in the early 1980s no self-respecting female would be seen dead on TV parading before judges wearing only a smile and a swimsuit.

That’s how it was, and how it continued for many years. And because of the undulating history of beauty contests many of my vintage will, I suspect, feel a jab of surprise that they have re-entered the mainstream as a healthy topic of conversation.

Now the days when people would say, “Beauty contests – didn’t they die out with the dinosaurs?” are over.

Miss Scotland is back and seems to be growing in prestige, acclaim and popularity all the time.

Chelsie Allison is an obvious reason why. She speaks eloquently about her devotion to raising money for the hospice. Beauty contest winners of the past were feted and acclaimed, but they were never expected to speak about pretty much anything. They were there to be looked at, and nothing else.

The Inverness Miss Scotland will now go on to take part in the Miss World contest in India next year, where she will spend five weeks. That should be a fantastic experience for her. I expect there will be a build-up to the event and many will be rooting for her.

The Miss World contest will now again capture much public attention in these parts, with not a swimsuit – other than for a beach outing – anywhere in sight.

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